Crushed, but thank you

When I was java developer in the way back, a cool new idea was ego-less development. The concept was you shouldn’t get attached to the code, that way feedback would be about the code and not about you or your baby code snippet.

It might seem odd, but people are possessive of their code. When I started at my current job, there was a section of code I wrote that exists ten years later. I consider that section of code my code.  Even though I’m no longer a developer. It’s still mine.

So imagine you’re talking about something more personal than a java method.

Your novel.

The story you birthed on the page. The story you cleaned up and watched grow. The story you nurtured and pruned in hopes it would be something special. I think we all want that deep inside, something you write to have some sort of effect. The story to make a difference.

Then you take your story and give it to someone and ask them for feedback. And they go away.

Meanwhile the worry-train chugs into the station. Would they understand? Did your effort make any difference? Was it good enough? Would they hate it? Would they still be your friend? Would they never respond – A thought that plagues you every 15 minutes or when you open emails.

Then the feedback comes. (cue scary music)

I will admit, I dread the moment, when you have the feedback in your hands.   I will stare at the file/email and know I am at the Schroedinger cat moment. The moment when the cat is at the same time alive and dead. You only find out which is true when you open the box.

The feedback could be glowing (doubtful) or it could be the you-suck variety (probable) or worse in some ways, the isn’t-that-cute kind (oh, the horror).

Then I open the file.   No matter which way I’ve worked myself into, it’s never what I’ve pictured.  Some of the feedback stings, but you read the feedback and set the story aside. Write an email to a trusted friend to whine, or commiserate in person with someone who understands. (Maybe drink some whisky.)

And then I go back and really study the feedback. Are there patterns between this feedback and what the other people I have asked said (is 500 people too many to ask)? Are there things that you agree with now that they point them out (Damn it, I am telling! But, maybe I meant to?).

I always send a nice note back thanking the critiquer for their time and effort. I may or may not agree, but this person took time out of their day to respond.

So why does the title of this blog have crushed in it?

I recently sent the first chapter of a novel to someone and gave a critique in exchange. They were a superior writer with a lyrical style. Their feedback hurt.


Not because they were mean. No, that’s not it at all, they were not. It was the truth they may have revealed.

The I-am-less-thans which plague a writer/woman/person jumped out and had a party in my head. It’s not pretty, and the mess was crazy, but when it was over, the part of me who really wants to be a good writer stepped out.   She dusted herself off, cleaned up the mess and got to work. (yeah, she is a pain in the ass (PITA))

I read the feedback again and took notes.

I sent them a nice email thanking them for their time. Even if the feedback is rough, I am truly thankful to have someone willing to read my work.

And give feedback!

How about you guys? What was your roughest piece of feedback? Or what was the feedback that stuck and catapulted your project the next level?

One thought on “Crushed, but thank you

  1. Wonderful post. I hope I’m not a “feedbacker” that crushes. Definitely agree it would help if I could step back and not think of every word as my baby! I’ll give that a try.
    I find helpful feedback the factual problems (that guy died 2 chapters ago – oops) or the “speedbumps” where I’m told something just isn’t flowing. Unhelpful feedback I’ve received includes things like “That’s not how operating rooms work” (I’m an anesthesiologist), and “I don’t like your main character” – with no details. Worse yet is someone who just said something like, “You clearly don’t understand how to plot. You need to throw this story out. Take these classes or give up because you’ll never be a writer.” That kinda stung 🙂
    Best is the honest feedback from people you know care about you. The feedback may not be all positive, but it’s honest and phrased in a way to help you improve.

    Great post!!

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